Thursday, March 24, 2011

Sound, Flash, and VMware Player

This is some notes on how to get sound and flash working on a Scientific Linux 64-bit guest ( rebranded Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6 ) running inside VMware Player on Windows 7 64-bit:

Flash: Note that Chrome for 64-bit Linux does *not* include the integrated Flash player that all other platforms have. You'll need to download 64-bit Flash beta from Adobe. At the time of this writing, that's at Adobe Labs. Once you extract the tgz file, you'll be left with a file "", simply copy it to /usr/lib64/mozilla/plugins , restart Chrome or Firefox, and you're set.

Sound: VMware's sound system crashes with the default Ubuntu / Red Hat sound configuration. This is apparently because VMware doesn't bother emulating all pieces of the hardware they say they're emulating, and when ALSA touches the missing bits, VMware disables the sound device. That's easy enough to fix though. From the Gnome menu, go to System->Preferences->Sound. In the Sound preferences, click on Hardware. Change the profile at the bottom from "Analog Stereo Duplex" to "Analog Stereo Output". Then on the little icon of the speaker on the bottom margin of the VMware Player, right-click it and select "Connect". After about a minute it'll turn green and you'll be able to play sound again.

Why this happens: Though the Ensoniq device emulated is capable of stereo duplex operation (i.e., both recording and outputting at the same time), I know because I actually had one of the physical cards back in the day and used it for that purpose along with a multitrack recorder program, VMware's emulation of the device is not capable of such and thus you must disable that capability. Unless you were intending to record audio within the Linux virtual machine (*not* recommended, VMware's timing is not sufficiently good to get good results there), this has no actual effect -- you can still play Flash videos from Chrome (and Firefox presumably) and hear the sound.

So if you're running Windows 7 on your physical hardware because you need the graphics performance for games and aren't willing to do the dual-card IOMMU hack with Xen that I demonstrated previously (or your hardware simply doesn't have IOMMU support, or you're not willing to use the latest bleeding-edge OpenSUSE as your platform), you can still have the far more secure web browsing environment of Linux available, and with VMware Player you can give Linux any additional drives beyond your boot drive for Linux to manage. Linux works far better as a server than Windows 7 does -- it can provide CIFS, AFP, iSCSI, and do it all on a much better software RAID stack than Microsoft's, as well as using LVM to manage that space, for which Windows 7 has no equivalent. And VMware's Unity system actually works pretty well with SL6/RHEL6 on Windows, although not as well as it works in VMware Fusion on MacOS (the issue being that the little Unity menu icon gets put into the screen menu bar on MacOS and has a native look and feel, while shows up as a clunky little usually-invisible icon above the Start menu on Windows). Which means that you can mix Linux Chrome windows, Windows IE windows (ick! But there's a couple of applications I need for customer support that requires IE plugins that don't exist for any other browser), Linux shell windows, and hoary old Outlook all on the same screen and manage them using the normal Aero Peek icons at the bottom or, if you have a Logitech mouse with the Logitech drivers installed, by assigning one of the side buttons to Window Switcher (their clone of Apple's Expose'). And unlike earlier versions of Windows, Windows 7 is stable -- in fact, I've never managed to make it crash. It's just very annoying... but that's why Apple is still in business, after all. Because Apple makes computers that are not annoying. For a price. A big price, alas...


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